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John shows up twice, in the middle of God’s planting season (revisited)

by davesandel on December 10th, 2021

Friday, December 10, 2021                             (today’s lectionary)

John shows up twice, in the middle of God’s planting season  (revisited)

John sent me some changes in the story I wrote last month on Thanksgiving Day. I had asked him, because he was there, and I was not. Here is the revised story of the nights he was with, first Dad, and then Mom, as they died.

 My parents built their house in 1976, and they set it on the foundation of another house. My Sandel grandparents , Bill and Dora, moved into that first house in 1948. They lifted the house up on jacks and dug out a basement, a firm foundation with two special rooms, one for coal and one for canned goods to tide them over through winter into spring.

Ever since they finished their beautiful new home in 1976, Mom and Dad slept in the master bedroom at the south end, where Grandma’s kitchen once had been. They closed their curtains at night and opened them in the morning. Dad slept on the right and Mom slept on the left, just as they stood up for their wedding in 1949.

I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good and lead on the way you should go. When you hearken to my commandments, your prosperity will be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea. Your descendants will be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence.

By 2002, when he was eighty years old, Dad had been diagnosed with ALS and was in hospice-at-home. Sometime during the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, he got up to use the bathroom and fell on his way back to bed. He had a stroke. He was totally out, and limp.

Mom called her son John to come and help. John lived then, and still lives, in the house a mile away, where we three kids had all grown up. John and his son Israel came and helped Dad back into bed. He was not conscious, although he was breathing, and a few hours later he died.

Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.

Now then, in 2021 on November 10 – two weeks short of 19 years later – Mom fell out of bed. She had not fallen out of bed before. She pushed her Lifeline button, not just once, but again and again.

From his home a mile away, John came and managed to get her back in bed. Same bedroom, other side of the same bed. but she was very distressed and didn’t want him to leave. He called our nurse sister Mary Kay. She told John to give Mom some calming pills. John stayed on the living room couch from 1:30 till 5:30, and by then Mom had calmed down and was sleeping. She seemed fine.

John went home to sleep for a few hours. People were coming at nine to register Mom and get the house set up for hospice.

Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.

About 8, John got another Lifeline call and drove back. Mom had fallen out of bed again. But this time she was very limp and unresponsive, and John couldn’t get her back into bed. He propped her up against a chair, while he went to deal with the Lifeline folks. When he got back, she had fallen backwards and was unconscious.

John called Mary Kay, but it was too late. Israel was on his way to help, once again. John and Mom sat there together, on the floor beside the bed. He said, “Go and be with Jesus, Mom.” In that last sweet moment, on the left side of the same bed in the same room Mom has slept in for forty-five years, she did just that. She passed … away.

The Lord will come; go out to meet him! He is the prince of peace.

All the day before Mom kept saying she was going to die. Shannon and her family visited Mom that day. Israel’s family wanted to come, but John told him that he thought Mom was better. She often talked about dying.

(Well, you wanted the corrections. That my brother, is the rest of the story. Love you, John)


The reverberations of those parallel moments in eternity make me reel with awe. Heaven’s bells ring and ring, the nine tailors now for Mom, and then for Dad, and always for us all, as Rev. Donne reminds. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

No man is an island. Every man is a piece of the continent … John has mixed feelings about his experiences. Pain and privilege. He will never forget those moments, first on Dad’s side of the bed, and then almost 20 years later, on Mom’s side. Lifting their weary, withered bodies up in his strong arms, holding them, feeling their breath on his cheek, wondering if they will open their eyes and see that he is there …

My spiritual director Deb wondered aloud: Did John catch a glimpse of what Mom and Dad were seeing in those last moments of their lives? Our Heavenly Father was sowing new seeds of his love all over the bodies of Mom and Dad as they died. Did some of those precious seeds fall on John? In his own heart, prepared with God’s careful love and affection when John was born, did a simple seed of love fall down, settle, and begin to grow?

He is like a tree, planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.

John, who has suffered himself in so many ways, laughs and smiles with freedom born deep within. John has always been a man of lovingkindness. His soil was ready to receive a brand new seed. I think Deb was on to something. And I, for one, am thankful.

(Isaiah 48, Psalm 1, Matthew 11)

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